Thursday, January 12, 2012

Into the Shadow of the Valley of Death

The west shore of Utah Lake is a popular place for appliances to go and die. I pulled the title of the post from the name of a Roger Fenton photograph from the Crimean War (Just checking to see if photo students and photo historians are paying attention.)


Jolene said...

Isn't it the Valley of the Shadow of Death? I have seen those photos. Photographers have been trying to "fix" reality from the very beginning, haven't they?

Travis Lovell said...

Jolene you are absolutely right. Excuse my word dyslexia. I'm not sure why I mixed those up and even more so why I didn't recognize it.

By "Fix" are you referring to repairing or making permanent. Fix does have a very different connotation to photographers.

Either way, I think another way to look at your question is the thought that the audience has been trying to claim photography represents or is reality from the very beginning. Yes Fenton took two pictures and altered the scene for the second. He changed the composition to match his commentary, not what he found. He was being truthful to the horror of war and dishonest to the semantics and details of this battle.

A photograph is basically a commentary influenced and controlled by the photographer first and critics and historians later. What a photograph means is subjective at best and will change to fit the needs of the audience. A photograph is only reality for the photograph itself, not for what it represents. A photograph is static whereas what was photographed will continuously evolve. I think of photographs as cairns on a trail. A marker of change and a way to evaluate how the subject has changed.

For me photography is a vehicle that gives us an unique way to look at our definition of reality rather than a way to look at or represent reality.

Sorry if this answer is rambling or more than what you asked for :)

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